As the cold days of winter roll into longer hours of warmer weather in the spring, flowers are in bloom and the seeds in our minds are planted with gardening ideas for the upcoming season.
While we’re busy figuring out what vegetables to grow and where we’ll put the compost bin and rain barrels, give some consideration to out-of-the-box thinking that might save you time, money and energy. You might even find a solution to a dilemma you didn’t know you had, or you might simply find inspiration to try something fun and unique.
Put pots in the flower beds
It’s one of those simple ideas that often gets overlooked. Instead of delegating your best pots exclusively to the deck or patio, place them throughout the garden. This allows you to add colorful flowers, herbs, and other plants to the landscape and swap them out as you desire. It’s particularly useful if you’re renting and want to move your plants with you.
Keep detailed gardening records
It’s essential to keep track of all your seed packets, yard diagrams and planting schedules. Use an organizational method you find convenient. For example, you can put everything into a digital file on the computer, use a file cabinet, or simply gather papers and put them in your favorite gardening book. However it best works for you, make sure you keep track of what you’ve planted, where you planted it, when it should be trimmed or harvested, and if it needs to be moved to a more beneficial location before next season.
Proudly display plant markers
To benefit the environment, minimize the number of plant markers you buy. Instead, get creative with what you already have around. Cut tall plastic yogurt containers into strips, use wood stakes, or invest in metal markers that can be cleaned and reused endlessly.
Try rocks and filters in planters
One of the biggest issues with plant success is balancing the correct amount of water the plant receives and retains. Help your plants out with good drainage in holes with a bit of gravel at the bottom. You can also place rocks inside planters. Instead of facilitating drainage, you can use coffee filters inside planters for water retention. Place a mesh screen at the bottom to keep soil from falling through the hole at the bottom of the planter too.
Use boots, bathtubs and baskets
There’s more to a garden landscape than ceramic or concrete planters. In fact, just about anything that will hold soil can be recycled into a planter. Try out a purse, basket, bucket, tea kettle or even an old boot. The inside of a broken washing machine, a bathtub or the tried-and-true toilet can all add a bit of something to the landscape design too.
Bring pictures to the garden center
It’s often difficult to describe what you’re looking for, so when heading to the garden center, bring pictures of your space. A visual reference can help guide your shopping choices.
If you haven’t heard of intercropping, you may be missing out on taking advantage of valuable garden space. Intercropping simply means planting vegetables near each other. It’s ideal in small spaces to increase your harvest. The key is to plant companion plants that don’t fight for the same resources. For example, place carrots (which grow underground) right up next to lettuce or peas.
If you have edging envy for the well-manicured lawn down the street, create your own technique with a flat spade and a plank of 2×4 or similar wood. Simply lay the wood down and hold it in place with your foot while you use the spade to create a straight edge.
Gardening with beer
Slugs like beer as much as many gardeners. However, they don’t recover from imbibing the fermented beverage. Place the warm, half-drank or cheap beer you were going to throw out into a cup or old can. Secure the reservoir by burying it slightly into the ground, then pour the beer inside. You want to have a bit of an edge so when the slugs climb in for a drink they can’t climb back out.
Use less soil
Planters filled with soil, especially large ones, get very heavy and are difficult to move. Instead of filling the planter with expensive soil from top to bottom, fill the bottom half with a filler. If you have old plant-based packing peanuts around the house, this is a good way to reuse them.
Rely on ice
When leaving town for the weekend, freeze several containers filled with water. These can be orange juice containers, water bottles or glass bottles. Whatever container you choose, make sure there’s a way to puncture small holes in the lid or down the side. Place the containers in your planters or alongside plants in the ground. As they defrost they will slowly release water into the plants, saving you the hassle of asking your neighbor to do the watering.
Regrow your food
There are many foods you can regrow after your grocery store run. These foods don’t require a seed start. For example, cut your romaine lettuce off near the base and place it in a bowl of water. Soon you’ll see new leaves forming. The same is true for green onions, celery, ginger, herbs and more.
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